Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tiny Little Mopeds in Your Mind.

My employer is moving to downtown Detroit after being in our current building for a bazillion years. It's a good move because the city where we are currently located is a pretty depressing place. There's a retail area/strip mall that is completely empty. There are "WE BUY GOLD" signs and a Planned Parenthood. Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of Planned Parenthood. I got my prenatal care there when I was first pregnant with my son and didn't have medical insurance. But Planned Parenthoods are not usually in the most desirable neighborhoods.

I went to a nail salon once by work and it looked like a place where former nail technicians go to die. The bottles of nail polish were all dried up and there wasn't a bottle of disinfectant in sight. I think the last time it had received a good scrub was probably somewhere around the Carter administration.

I have a co-worker who used to get blowouts just down the street from our office on Fridays for $20. She was so excited she found a place to give her hair a blowout for $20! The only problem was that the hair stylist gave her said blowout while simultaneously smoking a cigarette. My friend did notice she smelled like smoke on Friday nights. So we renamed the $20 Blowout, "The Smokey Blowout."

Anyway, it's quite industrial, this stretch of a highway. It cuts through the east side of Detroit and carves a path through a town that's been left behind to slowly rot into the concrete that surrounds it as folks move further and further north and leave this old Blue Collar town behind. This is the kind of town that was inhabited by the workers of the many automotive plants that loom along this stretch of road.

Most days I look out my window and see concrete as far as my eye can see. Concrete parking lots. Concrete buildings. Concrete sky. It's a town that's been built up and beaten down by the very industry that sustains it. Anyway, moving to the thriving entertainment district of Detroit will be quite an improvement for us in many ways. Downtown Detroit has a lot going on (despite what you may have heard) and we will be right in the middle of all of it. I'll also be able to have lunch with my husband on occasion, who also works downtown. We'll be like real city folk instead of the boutique suburbanites we've become.

So there are moving boxes and oddities littering the halls of my office building now. We have to box up all of our personal belongings and take them home. Only our desk chairs and our desktops (if we have them) and two containers of office supplies and other necessities will be moved to the new location. I walked by a typewriter today. I saw an empty Miller Lite can in the sink. I sifted through artwork that my son Cracky made for me when he was a toddler and I had just started working here. He drew me as a large balloon-like lady with sticks for arms and legs. I'm so enormous that I dwarf everything else in the picture, including his Defensive Tackle father, himself, the sun, the moon. I am that god-like and all-powerful. Seven years later and I still think he sees me that way.

In other news, my teeth ache from a new Invisalign-type device my orthodontist has inflicted on me in order to shove a wayward tooth back into place. It's like the first week of braces all over again. When I take the retainer off, my teeth feel loose and wiggle in their sockets. My gums throb with the beat of my own heart. I believe orthodontia would be a good torture device. I'm surprised our leaders haven't looked into this. I mean, sure, yeah, it's cruel and painful. But all of our war criminals leave with nice straight teeth! You can't Geneva Convention us for that.

Just kidding. I don't even know what the Geneva Convention is. I write ads for a living.

I started off the week with a bizarre form of food poisoning from red kidney beans. Did you know that they're toxic when they're undercooked? Yes, yes, they are. You either need to eat them out of a can or you need to make sure you boil them for 10 minutes on the stove. Do not cook them in a slow cooker.


If you get nothing else from my blog today, please get that.

Apparently cooking dry kidney beans over long periods of time at 80 degrees or less increases their natural toxicity 4-5 times. I was so violently ill, I didn't know which way or out of which orifice things were going to rocket out of my body. (Apologies for the graphic nature of this kind of poisoning.) After the third or fourth trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I briefly wondered whether I could simultaneously reach one end of myself towards the toilet and the other end towards the sink. It was that bad. And worse. But my husband says there are some things I probably shouldn't say on the internet. This coming from a man who is known for being inappropriate and having no boundaries. So, I think I will heed his warning and keep my description somewhat vague. Needless to say, I lost 6 lbs in 6 hours on the Hell Bean Diet. Cook yourself up a batch this weekend!

Then, after all that, I got in a disagreement with my husband. (Re: He was wrong and I was right and he refused to see that.) I guess two people aren't at their best when they've projectile evacuated all the liquids out of their bodies through every available orifice. And it wasn't really a fight, fight. Like, there weren't any punches thrown and I didn't take a baseball to his brand new car. Haha. I know he just flinched while reading that. But truly, I hate conflict of any sort. So does he. Whenever we have a disagreement, we both go and nurse our wounds silently in our own little pain caves. I think we both feel as though each hurtful word has been administered like a baseball bat to the tender hood of a BMW. Hahahaha. Just kidding. (I bet he's removing all the bats from our garage right now.)

All kidding aside, I do feel beaten down. Have you ever noticed that when you start off your day with a good hard cry, you feel it in your eyeballs for the rest of the day? I can still feel the salt in my eyes, left there like tiny crystal reminders of an earlier pain.

God. Relationships suck. They are so much work. They get right down to your deepest, darkest places. The places you were most hurt when you were most vulnerable. They conjure up the ghosts of our youth and reenact them like a morality play and you're the only sinner. Blergh. "Working it out" and "Compromise" have been the mantra of my adulthood. These are relatively new words for me and so I'm having to navigate this whole "Conflict Resolution" thing like a stranger in a strange land. I thought running away from conflict solved conflict? If I run away, the conflict is far away. See? All better! This new way is complete bullshit if you ask me. But I guess the trail of disastrous relationships that I've left in my love-wake suggest that maybe it's time I tried a new way. So fine. I'm doing that, but I'm doing it under protest (even if it was my idea).

Aside from all that, I'm stuck in a rut in my book. I'm about 2/3 of the way done and I feel like it's become monotonous. I feel like I'm telling one chronological story after the other, with a neat beginning, middle and an end. I want to break free and not write in any order or not meet some specific plot device. My writing coach is helping me with that. She's given me some free-writing exercises to play with this weekend that have nothing to do with plot. I just want to roll around in the words and luxuriate there. My tiny womb of words. My dreamy cocoon of images from my youth. I want to say something beautiful that has no point.

I want to paint you a picture of a lovely boy and how he looked when he pulled up into my circle driveway in the full lush of spring. I want you to know what it was like to run out of that dark house and into the bright sun with a boy on a moped waiting there for you. I want you to know what his heartbeat felt like when you wrapped your arms around him and got away. Any away. Didn't matter where. And he never asked too many questions. He never judged.

"How bad is it?" he would ask.

And all have you had to say was, "Bad" and he would drive you away like a white knight on a tiny little moped.

Yeah, so it might've been bad, but I had a boy on a bike who would come and get me and take me away. Sometimes life gets to be too much and I close my eyes and I scoot off on a little Honda moped in my mind.

Beep beep, baby.

God it's good to drive. To have a license and a credit card. Maybe it'll take me to the mall where everything is shiny and beautiful and new. It's never that bad if you have someplace to go. Someplace to be free. Someplace where nothing ever changes, beans never go bad, and you never have to compromise like a grownup ever.

Yeah, I wanna go there.


  1. I totally read it as "$20 blowjobs".

  2. Just like your recent ailment your post shot out in many directions. So Detroit is not as bad as they report? The boy on a moped - don't cook any red beans for him.

    1. Um...not all of Detroit is horrible. Just make sure that you stay in your car, don't walk around - especially at night; if you get rear-ended DON'T stop - GO!; definitely don't lose your way and go off track to some side street; have a buddy system. All that, and you'll be fine! Ha ha ha.

  3. Poor Detroit. So much of it should be replaced with a system of parks, don't you think?

    But moving to its downtown? Fabulous.

    And the beans? Oh, yeah, baby. I got the memo on the beans. I've been warned: ALWAYS soak them before cooking!


    1. Oh sister, I soaked them. Soaked them overnight.

      Apparently they have to be boiled for 10 minutes before you put them in the crockpot.

      Who knew?!?

  4. Hi Mandy,
    Happy New Year to you and your family.
    Yes, I'm alive and well...just need a few
    new body parts so I can do the things
    I enjoyed in my 20's & 30's.........
    Love your posts and thanks to Twitter
    for the email reminder.
    I fly to Chicago in March for a
    Great New Years resolution.
    My best to you and yours &
    thanks for the info on Kidney Beans.
    Sincerely, Richard O.
    P.S. Google has a bad habit of
    trying to make you do it the Google way.
    An example: Google asks if I want to use
    my full name, I say no...Google then
    changes how I will sign to my full name.
    I changed it to show: Richard Alan.

  5. Hi Mandy,
    I almost forgot, I want to purchase
    a copy of your book when it's finished.
    As I read your posts over the years I
    thought having them in a book would
    be great.
    Whatever you write I know I will enjoy.
    Sincerely, Richard O._aka_raao
    P.S. I see Google still posts me as 'raao'.
    It's Google+ who wants my full name
    etc... Take Care, Mandy & I await
    your book.

    1. Thank you! I hope I finish it and it gets published so you can in fact read it one day!

  6. I was really really afraid to click the graphic nature link. I'd been on reddit today and clicked on one or two things I shouldn't have and regretted it. I'm really glad I did though, totally worth it. :)

    I can't tell you how many times I look at my husband and daydream about taking my kid to a far away city to live in a tiny studio apartment where we're always poor but it's ok because we have each other and blah blah blah. And then he actually says sorry for something he said or did and I'm like; oh shit. I guess we'll have to work this out too.

    I'm very relieved to know about the kidney bean issue, it will potentially save me and those I love from significant…pain.

  7. Damn. I always wished for a boy on a bike when I was young. I had to settle for sad Mariah Carey songs and staring at the ceiling.

    In my family, we grew up believing conflict was just communication. We still operate that way and the new spouses don't all understand it. They think we fight all the time but really we're just talking. Sometimes the reframing helps...

    Wish I could send you some cold cucumber slices to lay on your eyelids.

    1. Heh.

      Reframing does help. But your family sounds absolutely terrifying to me.


  8. I have always wanted to visit Detroit someday. I may add it to my 2014 Bucket List. Good to see a post from you. I've missed your blog!

    1. Interesting. I don't know how many people have it on their bucket list. ;-)

  9. I never knew this about beans... I'm kind of glad now I've sworn them off for 2014 along with every other amazing food group in the quest of wearing a crop top in my 30s... but it sounds like kidney bean poisoning might get me to my goal weigh a lot quicker...

    Andyhow YAY for moving downtown, Detroit it my heart, and downtown is such a fun place to be!

  10. I could stand to lose a little weight and apparently my week of flu/infection/whatever didn't do the trick for me. Maybe I should try your red bean special? Oh, I totally know where you're coming from on the book thing. Except that I don't think my chapters follow the rules exactly. I mean, you know how you're supposed to make each individual chapter tell a little story with a beginning, climax and end and all that? Yeah well, my chapters are just sort of like "I think this is a good spot to break before I continue. At one point (while I was very sick) I started thinking the whole book idea was stupid and I should just quit and start something else. And then, after getting medicine, I started thinking "what? That's crazy talk! This book is super awesome!" So either my book is bad and the sickness revealed this truth to me, or my book is super awesome and I needed medication to see it, or else my current state of mind is incapable of making an objective opinion about it and I should just keep writing and hope for the best. I don't know. I'm pretty sure yours is better than mine, though.

    1. I wouldn't be so sure. And you win because you've actually finished it.

  11. As a test, I asked my wife what would happen if you made crock pot chili with dry kidney beans. Her response, "ARE YOU F--KING SERIOUS, YOU NEVER DO THAT!" So, I think that about covers the dry beans thing.

    Your description of the concrete everywhere makes me think of my first job out of college; it was phone based tech support at Ford in the basement of the Ford Credit building. There were no windows and the room was beige walls, beige cubicles, beige computers, mostly beige people. Depressing.

    1. Yeah. That's how our building is now. Gray walls. Gray carpet. Gray furniture. You get the drift.

  12. Hi Mandy! Sorry about your bean incident. Sounds terrible. Don't give up on your book!

  13. Mandy, I had heard about the red bean thing. OMG when I think of the hard beans my abuela would die, how she knew to cook them on a low simmer for hours. How did they know an dnot tell us? Anyway, I hear you on the relationships. I go back, my body goes back to Run Away. What I've been doing forever. Just leave when it gets ugly but you can't when you have little ones who need you and it's ridiculous to think you can pack everyone up to take with you just when it becomes to feel like way too much bullshit. It's so sad, but it's so hard and I guess there's a way to do it that I just don't know yet. I love your posts, I feel understood here, and that makes me feel good and safe right now. Thank you.

  14. I never finish anything I start writing. I never even get 2/3rds of the way through! But I did promise my husband I'd finish something next year. In order to do this, I probably need to hand write the whole thing, have my husband lock up each chapter so that I can't hate it and change it, and seek absolutely no feedback. After that comes the editing. But that's because I'm a cruel self critic, horribly lacking in self confidence. I'm also self defeating and insane.

    Anyway I'm sure a writing coach has better advice, but you have the gift. You don't just write a story, you create art. And art doesn't always make sense. On the other hand, sometimes it makes too much sense. Perhaps don't over think it or criticize it. Write those chapters, neat or otherwise, with those beautiful details that come so naturally to you. You can reorganize later. In fact, most do. You just keep writing from your heart!

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  16. When I got an expander as part of my braces experience, my friend and I decided there needs to be a theme park called An Orthodontist's Nightmare. We had plans for a whole bunch of rides that were in the style of the torture devices that are designed for teeth.